Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Last Place On Earth

Having previously mentioned poets whose attraction has faded for me, I should also mention that the opposite can also happen, as in the case of Peter Sansom.

I had always admired aspects of his earlier work, but with reservations. None remain since the 2006 publication of The Last Place On Earth. Words work harder to earn their place, while this sense of tightening also applies to the poems’ musicality. Humdrum events can sing and develop ramifications; Peter Sansom has mastered the art of getting them to do so, as in the opening lines of Ironing:

“I like it best when there’s time to see myself
though the drizzle of a weekday morning…”

Simple, mundane, yet already hinting at far more beyond as the poem advances.

I get the impression that Sansom is no longer bothered about nodding towards one poetic reference point or another. Techniques now don’t get in the way – they’ve been fully absorbed into his unified yet varied voice. The Last Place On Earth is an excellent example of how the portrayal of everyday events need not lack ambition. In fact, few poets are capable of rising to the challenge of meeting life head-on and then leaping beyond it without sounded trite or forced.

Peter’s Sansom’s achievement is thus considerable and undervalued. I’m convinced that The Last Place On Earth is a key book in contemporary British poetry. Get hold of a copy if you can!


  1. Yes, quiet agree, although I like January and whatever his first book was called too. I wasn't so keen on the one with all the M&S poems, though.

  2. Everything You've Heard is True was his first book, as I recall. I've got it somewhere here, probably buried deep in a box. January is on my 'priority' shelf, as one of my favourite poetry collections. (Only a small and highly select number make it to that shelf, I can tell you.) I wasn't sure about his Keats collection - 'A Kumquat for Mr Keats'?? - and worried that eh had lost his edge, so haven't rad this latest. But January, and in particular his poem in there entitled 'Canal', is a fine, fine book. I cried when I read 'Canal' and I'm as hard-boiled a poetry critic as they come.

    So yes, Peter Sansom is not as well-known or centrally placed for his talents as he should be, though I can't comment on his latest work.

  3. Apologies for all the typos above. Gosh, I must have been a little tired and emotional when typing that.

    Good to find another poetry/writing blog struggling to the surface, btw.